From the December 2005 issue of the Socialist Standard
In this strange system that received opinion holds to be democratic, who gets to be represented and to what degree? When I was living in "The People's Republic of South Yorkshire" I wasn't the right age to vote, but given the chance I would have succeeded in backing the winning candidate (the only time in my life), little realizing that although he would have been my representative in Parliament he would have represented me very little.
Later, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, being over 21 at last, I got my chance to put my X and did so feeling that now I could make my mark. What an exhilarating feeling, to be able to make a difference! With hindsight it's easy to see I was wrong in two ways; (1) that a vote for Labour would count for anything in that constituency, and (2) that, even if my choice had been elected, he would actually represent any of my core principles.
But I kept on hoping and putting my X (my democratic responsibility) whilst actively demonstrating how I thought the world should be - in Grosvenor Square (US Embassy) against the Vietnam war, at the South African Embassy against apartheid, in Trafalgar Square with CND - you name it, I was there. All this whilst studying for a degree so I could get a good job. Big trouble with the Principal for trying to recruit a few fellow students at my 'seat of learning' into a students' union. How terrible, we would have had access to cheaper books and tickets to concerts.
The 'good job', teaching, spanning a good number of years, led to more militancy. Must show solidarity, join the union, march for better conditions, withdraw participation in voluntary activities, work to rule. Life seemed to be one long struggle for the things I believed in. Meanwhile, a move to Kent and maybe I could try 'strategic' voting. Could I help to keep a particular candidate out rather than failing consistently to get mine in?
In the job (sorry, profession) a 'restructuring' of the pay scales and an apparent promotion yielded an actual pay freeze. Forget the 1250 hours that had been negotiated and hard won; now the schools started 'opting out' and going 'Grant-Maintained' (even the decent canteen grub took a knock with privatisation). This led to newly qualified teachers being interviewed for posts asked such loaded questions as "How late in the evening are you prepared to stay on the premises?" and being given the kudos of an 'acting-up' post for a year in the wild hope of a salary increase the following year for work already done.
Glad to be out of that rat-race. Lots of very happy and satisfying classroom experiences; as for the rest of it.... Now I'm an 'ex-pat', an 'economic migrant' with no vote and no representation in my adopted country. I am my own representative, wholly responsible to myself and my community. Moreover, I have come to the full realization that I have shed my last skin and can confidently say I know what it feels like to have emerged as a fully-fledged socialist.